More than 75 sunken ships have been found at the bottom of two lakes in Norway, shedding new light on the country’s long maritime history. The ship graveyard is also important for the history of Norwegian industry, with one researcher calling it “an archaeological treasure chest.”
“We have localized more than 75 shipwrecks in Heddalsvatnet and five in Nordsjø,” project leader Thor Olav Sperre told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Thursday. Both are fresh-water lakes located just south and southwest of Notodden and Kongsberg.
The lakes have been part of important transport routes for several thousand years, according to rock carvings at Ulefos dating back to the Viking- and Bronze Age. The discoveries of the sunken ships, which include two sailing vessels more than 30 meters (around feet) long, make it the largest ship graveyard ever found in Norway.
“We can’t rule out finding Viking relics at the bottom of the lakes,” said Pål Nymoen of the Norwegian Maritime Musem in Oslo. Notodden itself is part of UNESCO’s World Heritage program and the nearby lakes have been explored by historians, using submersible vessels and mapping technology developed by Kongsberg Maritime.
Heddalsvatnet feeds into Norsjø which in turn runs south towards Skien, Porsgrunn and out to the sea south of the Oslo Fjord. It was long an important transport artery for exports of iron, minerals and industrial products like fertilizer, manufactured with the help of then-new hydro-electric projects in the area. Notodden and Rjukan just to the north eventually became the headquarters of Norsk Hydro, still one of Norway’s biggest companies.